VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Sailors from various Navy commands in Hampton Roads were treated to a unique centerpiece of this year’s Navy ball, an aircraft carrier shaped cake celebrating the U.S. Navy’s 244th birthday, courtesy of USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) Sailors.
The large Ford-shaped cake, with miniature aircraft and an American flag cake draped over the center of the ship, commanded attention at its spot on a table just left of the main stage at the Hampton Roads Navy Ball Oct. 12.
A few weeks prior the ball, Culinary Specialist 1st Class Whitney Taylor, from St. Louis, Missouri, and Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Dustin Marshall, from Fairhope, Alabama, were selected to lead in the creation of the cake.
“There’s a lot of people down there [in Supply] who are really talented and may not have an avenue to really showcase it,” said Taylor, who has previously made large cakes for various events. “The fact that we were called upon to do it is an honor in itself.”
Although Taylor and Marshall led the project, Chief Culinary Specialist Kenyatta Poré, from Detroit, said Ford’s entire supply department would be involved.
“With anything that’s on a grand scale, it’s always a command effort,” said Poré. “For supply, it’s all hands on deck. Whether it’s just supporting or sitting there waiting to be called on — we’ll all be ready.”
Along with the cake for the Navy Ball, the pair was tasked to make a similar cake for Ford’s own celebration of the Navy’s 244th birthday, which also commemorated the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Kyle Borders, from Lakeland, Florida, was ready to answer the call and rogered up to help Taylor and Marshall.
“I started out as an extra hand and ended up moving towards helping to make the fondant,” said Borders.
With the final team put together, the Culinary Specialists continued constructing the cake in an off-ship kitchen, where they were met with the challenge of working around a different crew in a smaller and entirely different kitchen.
“We were running into a lot more issues with the other cake we made for the ship,” said Marshall. “It got a little stressful.”
Despite the initial setbacks, they all understood the significance of an opportunity like this for Ford.
“We have other commands and their senior leadership are going to have their eyes on what we’re able to do,” said Taylor. “Attention to detail is a major key.”
Their focus on the smaller details proved to be a success with the guests. Throughout the night, Sailors and their dates would surround the cake, admiring and pulling out their phones to take photos of it. As the guests made their way back to their seats, they would pass the table where Ford’s Culinary Specialists sat, and congratulate or compliment them on the carrier cake.
“It made me feel proud to see so many people taking pictures as they walked by and told us thank you,” said Marshall.
The ball ended with a ceremonial cake-cutting where the oldest and youngest Sailors at the event cut the cake together and exchanged the slices. For Borders, seeing his work highlighted was the pinnacle of the night.
“We put our hearts and souls into this cake and it really showed a lot about Ford’s Culinary Specialists, that we can and we will care about what we do and we take pride in our work,” said Borders.
Gerald R. Ford is a first-in-class aircraft carrier and the first new aircraft carrier designed in more than 40 years. Ford is currently undergoing its post-shakedown availability at Huntington Ingalls Industries-Newport News Shipbuilding.
For more news from USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), visit www.dvidshub.net/unit/CVN78 or www.facebook.com/USSGeraldRFord